How Tamil Nadu’s tiger count went up four times in 13 years.

Thirteen years ago, Tamil Nadu recorded 76 tigers in the wildlife sanctuaries of Kalakkad-Mundanthurai (KMTR) in Tirunelveli, Mudumalai in the Nilgiris and Aanamalai in Coimbatore district.

This number has increased by four-fold today. Thanks to scientific data collection on tiger population, increased patrolling and better management of forest areas, the big cat numbers have gone up steadily, say officials.

Tamil Nadu chief wildlife warden and principal chief conservator of forests Sanjay Kumar Srivastava attributes increased forest area, adoption of scientific methods such as camera traps to account for the tiger population and a better monitoring and anti-poaching team for the numbers.


At the outset, declaration of Sathyamangalam as the fourth tiger reserve in the state contributed to a major increase, since it is also the largest wildlife reserve in the state. This coupled with use of camera traps and better use of manpower helped in keeping a better record.

An official recounted that from 1973 to 2005 the counting was done using indirect sighting of pug marks. Under this system, enumerators used to walk along the pre-drawn transect lines. Whenever marks were sighted, it used to be considered as one tiger. This old method was prevalent for a little more than three decades. "This was one of the main reasons for not getting the actual population of tigers. This was an issue in most of the states, which now record a good number of tigers," he said.

A new method was adopted from 2006 onwards. Under this, the total area of tiger reserve is divided into units of 5sqkm. The number of volunteers and the days to do the enumeration was increased. What was earlier done with a handful of wildlife enthusiasts became a sizeable number. Similarly, the two-day exercise became a week-long one.

Collected data was then sent to Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in Dehradun. Researchers checked randomly the data sent by the concerned states by sending a team. When both the data were analysed, the real numbers came to light, said the official.

Srivastava said yet another important factor was the setting up of camera traps, which are used for monitoring the tiger population. These traps in strategic locations helped authorities trace the movement of the big cats. In sensitive areas anti-poaching camps were set up. These camps had anti-poaching watchers who perambulated interior areas 24x7. "Ensuring such protection to the forest areas resulted in a strong prey base, which also got the protection," he said.

The tiger reserve managers also ensured habitat improvement wherever possible. A good example to this is banning of vehicles and tourists in KMTR by its then field director A Anwardeen. This kind of effort helped in free movement of wildlife such as leopard and Indian gaur in the erstwhile tourism zone, which turned into a sterile zone, the officer said.

Apart from these measures, the tiger deaths in the state were mainly due to retaliatory killing by cattle owners. There is no organised poaching in TN, which is the case in central India, Srivastava said. (Source: The Economic Times)

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